Herbert explains Massa’s penalty: “He knew where Hamilton was”

2011 Indian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Massa was blamed for his latest collision with Hamilton

Johnny Herbert, the drivers’ advisor to the stewards at the Indian Grand Prix, has explained why Felipe Massa was penalised for his collision with Lewis Hamilton.

Writing in his column for The National, Herbert said: “After looking at it from different camera angles and studying all the data available to us, it was clear that Massa knew where Hamilton was before he chose to turn across him.”

Herbert said Massa’s decision to ‘open the door’ for Hamilton, before taking his normal racing line for the corner, also influenced their decision:

“Massa knew where Hamilton was, he opened the door for him by moving wide, and after doing that he still swept across and did not give Hamilton room.

“That’s why the decision was made to punish him with a drive-through penalty.”

Massa disputed his penalty, saying: “I simply stayed on the ideal line, braking on the limit and staying on the part of the track that was rubbered-in. What else could I do?”

Hertbert, who made the decision with FIA stewards Gert Ennser and Vincenzo Spanno, said: “I know Massa was upset by our decision, but I believe we made the right call.”

He added Hamilton had not disputed his grid penalty for going too quickly under yellow flags during Friday’s first practice session: “He held his hands up and admitted that he had made a mistake.”

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158 comments on Herbert explains Massa’s penalty: “He knew where Hamilton was”

  1. vjanik said on 1st November 2011, 15:38

    we will never know if Massa turned in on Lewis intentionally, or because he didn’t see him. But either way it was his fault.

    I would compare this to to the overtaking move Webber did on Alonso into eau rouge this year. I think we all agree that that corner is even more challenging than the one in india and the commitment going into it is probably even higher. The driver is busy on his own let alone while being overtaken. Alonso could have easily closed the gap on webber who was creeping alongside as they were entering the corner, but he recognized that Webber was there and was smart enough to give him room and avoid a big accident. if they did crash, I can easily see Alonso claiming that he didnt see him and that he was taking his normal racing line. Many people would agree with him. My point is that if all the drivers closed the gap like massa did in india, we would never see wheel to wheel racing. The great drivers are able to judge these situations better and make compromises.

  2. mikef117 said on 1st November 2011, 15:47

    If you reverse the drivers positions and put LH on the outside of the corner with Massa coming up the inside and the incident played out as it did….who do you think would have got the penalty then?

    I agree totally with Johnny – if Massa knew LH was there or there abouts, he should have left some space.

  3. realracer (@realracer) said on 1st November 2011, 16:37

    Massa was ahead of Hamilton at the turn, so don’t expect Massa to yield. Lewis isn’t completely innocent in this scenario.
    Obviously Herbert being an Englishman he wouldn’t give an Englishman a penalty.

    • UKFan (@) said on 1st November 2011, 17:12

      I dont think thats fair to say but I think former drivers are afraid to lose some of Hamiltons spirit with so many penalties that were almost all consensual.

    • @Faraz… this is the most ridiculous point i’ve ever seen on this forum. what has being English got to do with anything. When will people grow up and stop playing the race/favouritism card?

      PS Herbert wasn’t the only steward on that day. Get your facts right!

      • McMclaren said on 1st November 2011, 20:08


        Lewis was doing what is technically termed ‘raceing’

        more specifically when massa left a gaping hole on the inside between himself and the corner he positiond his car there to force Massa to run wide and thus take the place away from him

        this technical move called ‘passing’ has been known about and used as a raceing tactic for some time now, there are even rumours its been around since the very first race ever

        that is why the first thing raceing drivers are taught about defensive driving is defend the inside line and make your competitor go round the outside

  4. UKFan (@) said on 1st November 2011, 17:09

    What I saw was Massa always looking at the wrong side of the mirrors. In my opinion its was a racing accident, because usually the faster driver is always expecting the slower driver to yield. It reminds me of the all time greats they were always expecting their opponents to yield. Hamilton had much better traction and was definitely entitled of taking that line despite the odd overtaking place Massa was obviously hoping for Hamilton to back out.

  5. McMclaren said on 1st November 2011, 17:25

    with the exception of obvious foul play the way I see it…

    if you go up the ouside into a corner and touch its your own fault

    if you try on the inside and touch it’s probably the other guys fault…the only exception I see to this is if you can’t make the corner your self because its too tight or your going to fast OR there isn’t enough room for you to both make it round in the first place and you run the other guy off the track


    monaco, silvestone, japan, india…all massa’s fault

    spa…kobayashi’s fault

    malaysia…lewis’s fault

    …have I missed any

  6. I think the whole penalty system has just become too scientific. The are simply too many variables involved in determining how penalties are actually applied:

    – Did driver A see driver B in his mirrors?
    – Did driver A leave driver B enough room?
    – Did driver A suffer any damage as a result of contact with driver B?
    – Did driver A go on the record on team radio claiming foul play by driver B?
    -Was Driver A more than two thirds up the inside before driver B turned in?
    -Did driver A gain an unfair advantage through passing off track despite allowing driver B back through?

    I think you get the point that the list is endless. Furthermore, the inconsistencies are further compounded by the fact that stewards vary from race to race as many of you have already mentioned.

    Like many others here, it is my opinion that these penalties are getting unduly petty in their application which simply isn’t serving the racing. And I don’t but the safety argument regarding the application of penalties either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety, but the vast, vast majority penalties are handed out in situations where safety just isn’t an issue.

    Do we all remember when Fisi took out Ralf Schumacher in the Argentine grand prix in 1997? Or when Couthard touched Hakkinen into a spin at turn two of the 1999 A1 grand prix? Those are just two examples at the top of my head that would have almost certainly been met with penalties in today’s F1 climate. I would like to see these penalties scaled back and only used where one driver is clearly in the wrong or even driving dangerously. This latest Massa/Hamilton incident should have just gone down as a racing incident. If Massa was clearly in the wrong, then how on earth is it possible for us to have hundreds and hundreds of posts debating the collision.

    My 2 cents.

    • Jack Holt (@jack-holt) said on 2nd November 2011, 11:34

      We can look back as recently as last season: Hamilton left Webber a bit of room up the inside of a non-overtaking corner in Singapore and Webber stuck his nose in. That wouldn’t have escaped a penalty this season because it would have been called an avoidable accident. However, I think this incident deserved a penalty because the stewards seem convinced (and I agree) that Massa knew exactly where Hamilton was and still drove into him.

      I agree with you about the prissiness of the current rules, I think drivers should never be punished for making mistakes, only for deliberately misbehaving – there are far too many penalties in F1 nowadays and the strictness of enforcement varies from race to race, so the sport leaves itself wide open to accusations of bias.

      • Thanks for the reply Jack.

        I literally just read the Mar Webber column on the bbc page and this is what he says:

        You could argue all day about the rights and wrongs of the latest crash involving Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa but it was a 50-50 incident in my opinion.

        The corner they collided at is quite a quick one – fifth gear at about 135mph – so the brakes don’t go on much.

        It’s very difficult to pass there but Lewis got a good run off Turn Four and got down the inside of Felipe.
        Continue reading the main story

        If someone’s had an absolute howler, then fine, give them a penalty but sometimes it might be better just to say it was one of those things

        It was the age-old thing. Lewis went for it, Felipe was still going to commit to the corner, then Lewis tried to back off and couldn’t.

        F1 is getting into a bit of a road-car culture with penalties. The attitude seems to be that someone must be to blame when there is an incident.

        In this case, the stewards thought Felipe could have given Lewis a bit more room and therefore handed him a drive-through penalty.

        Yes, Felipe could have made space for Lewis but, in my view, it wasn’t clear-cut.

        The drivers have always said that they want the stewards to be consistent – and, to be fair, that’s what they are trying to be.

        If someone’s had an absolute howler, then fine, give them a penalty but sometimes it might be better just to say it was one of those things – what we call in F1 “a racing incident” – and let it go.”

        That is almost exactly my point from the post above!
        I’m glad some of the drivers also agree with this take on things.

  7. TdM (@tdm) said on 1st November 2011, 18:10

    I must admit that I changed my mind several times on this.

    Instant judgement – Why was Massa turning in?
    Second look – Hamilton was too far back
    Third and final opinion – Massa at fault he knew he was there and didn’t give enough space Hamilton was further back at the point of contact due to Massa’s movements (and natural angles) and the fact that he had tried to bail out of it

    If you watch Hamiltons usual response to someone overtaking on the inside (apart from Singapore 2010) you will see he sweeps very wide to get the switchback or a better run on the next corner – which often works. That’s smart racing. He has been known to misjudge the length of the car but it’s a risk with that maneuver if you are going to sweep as close as you can.

    Massa on the other hand is almost always over defensive. I never really like the way Massa drove. He’s not aggressive enough over the average of the race but he defends in a childish manner. He usually drives a very steady average race – which is why he almost won 2008 – everyone else was making mistakes and his standard plodding drives meant that he usually got out of it without incident. He is also fairly poor in the wet (contrary to some opinion on the BBC it seems). Needless to say I think the ‘drop in form’ was merely a small loss of form which actually showed around about where his talents lie in regards to the other drivers around him.

    He is a good shotgun driver and that is all.

  8. west (@west) said on 1st November 2011, 18:40

    I think massa knew what he was doing cos he was told to give Hamilton very hard time we hard from team radio in prev races, if it was not that this incident would have been avoided.

  9. This is a couple of pics of T1 at turkey(which is a similar speed and radius to T4 india) from last year when Button and Hamilton where going for it.

    You can see Hamilton is in pretty much the exact same position to Button as he was to Massa, yet Button recognises it and gives Hamilton JUST enough room at the apex so that they can both live to fight another day. In India Massa just completly aimed for the apex, and took it at normal speed (hence Ham front wheel clipping his rear). If Button chose to take the normal apex/speeds in turkey, the accident between them 2 would have been identical. The difference is, Button dosnt see ‘red’ when Hamilton is in his mirrors and also keeps his mind on the long-game.


  10. Massa has done the same thing before many many times before during the years ie turning into a corner with a competitor at the inside.
    I think the problem Massa has is a lack of spatial awareness at least compared to what is required of a Grand Prix driver. He just does not know well enough where his own car is in relation to other cars around him which seems to be the common reason for his many crashes.

    • McMclaren said on 1st November 2011, 20:21

      interesting thought @sven

      however after reading massa’s own comments on this, I am beginning to believe the problem is he ACTUALLY BELIEVES if he is slightly ahead the other guy will just back out

      I am guessing he just assumes every1 else drives like he does

  11. I think something a lot of people are not factoring in is that perhaps the race stewards also took into account the fact that LH had to pit and replace his front wing as a result of this incident. Clearly they felt that FM was at fault and had two options at hand; drove through or just a warning for FM. Perhaps due to the fact that LH had to pit as a result of the contact the stewards were compelled to give FM a drive through. Had Lewis not required a new nose its likely that FM would have only been given a warning.

    • McMclaren said on 1st November 2011, 20:35

      but massa drove right across the front of lewis…how could lewis NOT have needed a new nose?

      had they just banged wheels and both carried on it would not have even been investigated

      • Thats my point! I think FM penalty had EVERYTHING to do with the fact that the contact resulted in damage to LH that in turn required a pit stop. Had the contact been wheel to wheel with no resulting damage like you mentioned I doubt a penalty would have been issued at all.

        • lebesset said on 2nd November 2011, 9:50

          what has what damage occurred got to do with the penalty ?

          you might as well say there shouldn’t be a penalty for unsafe release because there wasn’t a collision!

  12. Err Bob said on 1st November 2011, 22:50

    When you think about it, without this incident it would of been the most boring race in the history of F1, but with it, it was barely watchable.

    • Wooolfy said on 2nd November 2011, 4:55

      Totally agree. But then again, Lewis would have been further ahead and maybe offered more of a race for the top positions.

  13. FerrariFanatic said on 1st November 2011, 22:53

    This situation at worst is a racing incident. I agree with Ads21’s take on the situation. IMO hamilton wasn’t even alongside, maybe his tire cleared the rear wing but thats not sufficient enough to risk a move at that part of the track. If he was THAT much faster than massa im sure he couldve overtaken him anywhere else on the track. I reckon massa to some degree agrees with me and he didnt expect hamilton to try to overtake at that point in the race and turned in and hit him. Im not a big fan of massa and i want him out of the scuderia but i dont believe this was him to blame. I think he didnt expect a hamilton move and hamilton didnt expect him to cut across either. Its a royal shame to see these two drivers ruin each others races with such consistency.

  14. Hairs (@hairs) said on 1st November 2011, 23:09

    Amazing. The previous article was overwhelmingly anti-Massa. Then brundle’s blog gets published and suddenly it’s all “racing incident”.


  15. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 1st November 2011, 23:53

    With that corner Massa could have just stayed on the inside of the track relative to the apex, or certainly to the left. That would have certainly been a better defensive move at it would have allowed him to defend into the next corner too.

    Hamilton was going to have him at some point anyway.

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